Guide to Short- vs Long-Term Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Guide to Short- vs Long-Term Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

A certificate of deposit (CD) is a type of savings account that holds your funds for a set period of time, or term. In exchange, the bank pays you a fixed annual percentage yield (APY), which tends to be higher than what you could earn in a traditional savings account.

When you open a CD, you can typically choose between a short-term CD (one year or less), mid-term CD (two to three years), or long-term CD (four years or longer). Generally, the longer the term of the CD, the higher the interest rate will be. However, these days, that’s not always the case. Nonetheless, APY is one of several factors to consider when deciding which type of CD is right for you.

How Do CDs Work?

A certificate of deposit is a type of deposit account offered by a variety of financial institutions, including brick-and-mortar banks, online banks, and credit unions. When you open a CD, you make a lump sum deposit then agree to leave the money untouched until the end of the CD’s term.

Unlike a regular savings account, you typically can’t add money to a CD after your initial deposit. And if you withdraw money before the end of the CD’s term, you will likely get hit with an early withdrawal penalty.

There are some no-penalty CDs on the market that don’t charge a fee for pulling your money out early, but be sure you understand the terms and potential tradeoffs with regard to lower rates or fees.

Are CDs Insured?

Yes, CDs are typically insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for up to $250,000, which makes them a relatively safe investment. Any money you deposit, up to $250,000, would be covered in the event of fraud or a bank collapse.

If the CD is issued by a credit union, it would be insured for the same amount, by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

What Is a Short-Term CD?

Short-term CDs are CDs with terms of one year or less. Different banks offer CDs with different terms, but 3-month, 6-month, and one-year CDs are common.

A short-term CD gives you greater flexibility than a longer-term CD, since you’ll have access to your money sooner. But a short-term CD will also typically offer a lower annual percentage yield (APY) than a CD with a longer maturity date.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Short-Term CDs

Short-term CDs come with both pros and cons. Here are some to consider.

Advantages of Short-Term CDs

•   They typically pay a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts.

•   They offer a safe place to park savings for a big purchase, while earning a steady rate.

•   If rates change or your needs shift, you won’t have to wait long to access your money.

Disadvantages of Short-Term CDs

•   They may offer lower interest rates than long-term CDs.

•   You may be able to find higher rates with other financial products, such as a high-yield savings account.

•   If you need the money before the CD matures, you’ll have to pay an early withdrawal penalty.

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What Is a Long-Term CD?

Generally speaking, a long-term certificate of deposit is a CD that has a term of four years or more. Long-term CDs typically offer the highest rates of any type of CD, but the returns you’ll earn even with a long-term CD tend to be lower than historical stock market averages. That said, the beauty of CDs is that they offer a predictable rate of return, in a vehicle that’s relatively low risk.

The tradeoff to the higher interest rates that come with long-term CDs is that you won’t have access to your money for several years without paying a penalty.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Long-Term CDs

As with short-term CDs, long-term CDs come with both benefits and drawbacks. Here are some to keep in mind.

Advantages of Long-Term CDs

•   They typically offer the highest interest rates of any type of CD.

•   The predictable rate of return can help balance more volatile investments in your portfolio.

•   Knowing that you’ll incur penalties for early withdrawal can deter you from dipping into your savings prematurely.

Disadvantages of Long-Term CDs

•   If you end up needing to take money out before the term is over, you will likely get hit with early withdrawal penalty fees.

•   Some long-term CDs require a minimum opening deposit of $1,000 or more.

•   There’s a risk that inflation or interest rates will go up while your money is tied up in the CD.

Main Differences Between Short-Term and Long-Term CDs

Here’s a look at how short- and long-term CDs compare side-by-side.

Short-Term CDLong-Term CD
Term length3 months to 1 year4 years or more
Early withdrawal penalty?YesYes
SafetyFDIC or NCUA InsuredFDIC or NCUA Insured
APYTypically lowerTypically higher
Found at:Traditional banks, online banks, and credit unions.Traditional banks, online banks, and credit unions.

When Should I Consider a Short-Term or Long-Term CD Over the Other?

Whether you should go with a short-term or long-term CD will depend on your financial goals, the amount of money you can afford to lock away, and your need for flexibility.

Consider a short-term CD if:

•   You may need access to your funds in the near future.

•   You want to take advantage of potentially higher interest rates compared to traditional savings accounts.

•   You are uncertain about future interest rate changes and want to reassess your options sooner.

Consider a long-term CD if:

•   You have money you want to set aside for a specific purpose that won’t happen for several years.

•   You want to maximize your earnings with potentially higher long-term CD interest rates.

•   You are confident you won’t need access to the funds before the CD matures.

It’s also important to consider your overall financial situation, including emergency savings, other investments, and financial goals, before deciding between short-term or long-term CDs.

The Takeaway

Opening a CD can be a smart way to earn a higher interest rate than you’d get from a traditional savings account. The tradeoff is that most CDs will charge an early withdrawal penalty if you remove your money before the end of the CD’s term, so you have to be willing to lock up your funds for the specific term of the CD you choose.

Generally, CDs with longer terms offer higher interest rates than shorter-term CDs, but this isn’t always the case so it’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates before opening a CD. You may also be able to find competitive rates with other types of accounts, like high-yield savings accounts.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is a long-term or short-term CD better?

It depends on your financial goals and circumstances. If you have funds you can comfortably lock away for a longer period and want to earn a potentially higher interest rate, a long-term certificate of deposit (CD) might be better. If you need more flexibility or anticipate needing the funds in the near future, a short-term CD might be a better fit.

How are rates different between short-term and long-term CDs?

Certificate of deposit (CD) rates can vary widely, but generally the longer the CD term, the higher the interest rate. Short-term CDs (usually up to one year) tend to offer lower interest rates compared to long-term CDs (four years or more).


Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Bank Guarantees: What You Need to Know

Bank Guarantees: What You Need to Know

A bank guarantee is a promise by a financial institution that it will assume liability for a business contract if one party fails to uphold its obligation to another. In this way, the bank acts like a cosigner for a buyer or borrower on a business agreement, reducing the risk for the seller or lender.

This can be a valuable assurance for organizations that are conducting financial transactions. For a small fee, bank guarantees often enable small businesses to enter into contracts with larger companies with which they otherwise would not be able to do business. Read on to learn more about how bank guarantees work and their pros and cons.

What Is a Bank Guarantee?

A bank guarantee promises that, if one party in a business agreement fails to meet its obligations, the bank will cover its debts. By backing up a transaction, it adds confidence to riskier deals.

Bank guarantees involve a thorough review of the business applicant’s finances and credentials. If, after this due diligence, a commercial bank feels confident that an applicant (the debtor) will be able to uphold their contractual obligations, the bank may offer the guarantee to the other party (the beneficiary). This can lead to greater assurance that the transaction will go smoothly.

Bank guarantees are usually a part of more complex financial transactions between businesses. The average borrower won’t need to worry about bank guarantees for auto loans, mortgages, or personal loans.

A little more detail on bank guarantees for business clients of a financial institution:

•   Companies often use bank guarantees for complicated contracts involving goods and services. If a vendor fails to provide goods or services that have already been paid for, a bank guarantee ensures reimbursement for the business using that vendor.

   If, on the other hand, a buyer fails to pay for goods or services that have already been delivered or rendered, the bank guarantee covers the unpaid balance for the seller.

•   Because a bank guarantee might protect a buyer or a seller, it may be easier to think of them in terms of the beneficiary (the company that requires a bank guarantee to feel protected and move forward with a contract) and an applicant (the company that must apply for the bank guarantee to close the deal).


💡 Quick Tip: An online bank account with SoFi can help your money earn more — up to 4.60% APY, with no minimum balance required.

How Do Bank Guarantees Work?

If a contract includes a bank guarantee, that guarantee will specify an amount to be repaid (or the goods or services to be delivered) and a set timeframe in which the transaction will happen. The contract will also spell out the bank’s responsibility should the applicant fail to meet their contractual obligations.

To assume this risk, banks charge applicants a fee for the guarantee, expressed as a percentage of the cost or value of the transaction, typically around 0.5% to 1.5%.

If the bank deems a contract particularly risky, it might require the applicant to offer collateral. Unlike with secured personal loans, where a house or car might serve as collateral, bank guarantee collateral is typically liquid assets, like stocks or bonds.

Recommended: Business vs. Personal Checking Accounts: What’s the Difference?

Types of Bank Guarantees

There are two main types of bank guarantees: financial bank guarantees and performance guarantees.

Financial Bank Guarantee

With a financial bank guarantee, a bank promises to repay a debt if the borrower (or buyer) defaults on the agreement. For example, an applicant may purchase goods and services from a large company, receive said goods and services, and never pay the bill. In this instance, the bank would settle the debt with the large company since the funds can’t come out of the borrower’s bank account.

What Is a Performance Guarantee?

In this situation, if an applicant fails to perform the obligations laid out in contract (e.g., supplying parts to a company), the beneficiary can make a claim with the bank for the losses incurred from the non-performance of contractual obligations.

Performance failure might also mean that, though the goods or services were delivered, they did not meet quality standards specified in the contract. In these situations, the bank would step in to offset those losses.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Examples of Bank Guarantees

Bank guarantees can serve many purposes, usually between two businesses. Here are a few of the guarantees that banks often issue:

Rental Guarantee

A rental guarantee protects a landlord when entering into a contract with a company (like a restaurant or retailer) that wants to lease a space. This guarantee serves as collateral for a rental lease.

Advanced Payment Guarantee

An advanced guarantee protects a company that has paid in advance for goods or services that weren’t delivered. You may also hear this referred to as a cash guarantee. If the deal isn’t satisfied, the company that has paid out in advance will be refunded.

Performance Bond Guarantee

A performance bond is a kind of financial guarantee for a business deal, to protect against one party failing to meet its obligations. You may also hear this called a contract bond. If, say, a contractor doesn’t complete the work they agreed to do, a performance bond guarantee can protect the party paying for the project. That entity would be compensated for their loss.

Warranty Bond Guarantee

When a bank provides a warranty bond guarantee, that protects the buyer in a transaction, ensuring that goods are delivered as specified. This could refer to the quality and condition of the items as well as the timing of their arrival.

You may also hear this term used in another situation. Sometimes referred to as a maintenance bond, a warranty bond guarantee can be a financial guarantee in which a builder promises to protect the owner of a construction project from problems with workmanship or faults with materials that could occur after the project’s completion. A financial institution or insurer will back up this promise.

Payment Guarantee

A payment guarantee is quite simply what it sounds like: It guarantees that, if, say, a buyer fails to send adequate funds for a purchase, the bank will step in and cover the shortfall. It allows a seller to feel confident that they will be paid in full on a predetermined date.

Recommended: Bank Guarantees vs Letters of Credit: What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons of Bank Guarantees

Here’s what you need to know about the upsides and downsides of bank guarantees.

Pros

Among the most important advantages or a bank guarantee are the following:

•   Reduced costs: While not free, a bank guarantee can be a cost-effective way to encourage confidence and help a deal go through. It may be less expensive to obtain, say, than taking out a small business loan to cover a potential debt.

•   Reduced risk: A bank guarantee reduces risk since the bank promises to pay if one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal. In this way, a bank guarantee can open up new opportunities for businesses, especially those without a long or solid credit history.

•   Quick activation: It typically takes only a few days to obtain a bank guarantee.

•   Enhanced credibility: Before offering a guarantee, a bank does a comprehensive assessment of an applicant’s financial standing. Earning a bank’s backing through a guarantee demonstrates that the bank finds the applicant company to be credible.

Cons

Next, the potential drawbacks of bank guarantees to be aware of:

•   Stringent approval guidelines: Bank guarantees aren’t given to just any entity. A business must show that it merits this backing. Not every applicant will qualify.

•   Collateral requirement: If a venture seems particularly risky, banks may require collateral from applicants; this can be risky for startups with limited funding.

•   Complex regulations: There have been scams involving bank guarantees in some international transactions. Using a bank guarantee for an international deal may therefore require many complex steps and assurances before it moves forward.

The Takeaway

In business transactions, a bank guarantee promises that the financial institution will cover any debts to one party if the other party does not meet its obligations. Larger companies often require small businesses and startups to obtain a bank guarantee before doing business with them. These guarantees can help a small or new business secure large deals since the bank has shown confidence in them.

That said, if you’re focused on your personal finances and are considering your options, see what SoFi offers.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the difference between bank guarantees and letters of credit?

Both bank guarantees and letters of credit add confidence to business deals, with slight differences. With a bank guarantee, the financial institution promises to step in and pay debts, if needed, for the party they guaranteed. A letter of credit, useful in international trade, substitutes the bank’s credit for a business’. The bank will guarantee payment if the business defaults on their obligation, but only once certain criteria are met.

What is the purpose of a bank guarantee?

The purpose of a bank guarantee is to add confidence to a contract between two parties. If one party fails to uphold its contractual obligations or defaults on a loan, the bank promises to step in and uphold the contract and pay the debt that may result.

How can I get a bank guarantee?

If a business is requiring a bank guarantee to enter into a contract, contact your bank (or your business’ bank) and request an application. The bank will then review the completed application to determine your creditworthiness, typically within a few business days.


Photo credit: iStock/eclipse_images

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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Credit Card Debt Collection: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Credit Card Debt Collection: What Is It and How Does It Work?

If you find yourself unable to make even the minimum payment on your credit card, your account may get sent to credit card collections. Credit card debt collection is the process by which credit card companies try to collect on the debt that they are owed.

The credit card companies may try to collect the debt themselves, or they may hire a third-party credit card debt collection firm to collect. In some cases, the debt owed may be sold to another company, who might then try to collect. Here’s a look at what happens when credit card debt goes to collections.

What Are Credit Card Collections?

Credit card collections is the process that lenders go through to try to get paid for outstanding debts they’re owed.

If you know what a credit card is, you’ll know that credit card issuers allow you to make purchases with the promise of eventual repayment. But if you don’t make even the credit card minimum payment, the credit card company eventually may send your debt to collections in an effort to recoup the money owed.

How Do Credit Card Collections Work?

Credit card credit card debt collection results from not paying your credit card bills. The best way to use credit cards is to always pay the full amount each month on the credit card payment due date. Even if you’re not able to, you’ll want to at least make the credit card minimum payment.

If you don’t make any payments toward your credit card balance, the credit card company may start the credit card collections process. At this point, a third-party debt collector will assume responsibility for trying to get you to repay the money owed, relying on the contact information the credit card company has on file to get in touch.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Credit Card Debt Collections Process

Most credit card companies will begin the credit card debt collections process by attempting to contact you directly to pay off the debt. If you haven’t made any credit card payments recently, the bank will likely try to email or send you certified letters. Then, if you still don’t make any payments and don’t arrange for a payment plan with your lender within 30 to 90 days, they’ll likely turn it over to a third-party debt collector.

Most credit card companies do not have the staff or business model to engage in a long-term credit card collection process. That’s why they will usually hire a third-party company or companies to do the actual debt collection. If these companies do not successfully collect the debt, it’s also possible your debt will be sold to another company, which will then try to collect on it. There are currently over 7,000 third-party debt collection companies in the U.S.

At any point, one of these companies may formally sue you in an attempt to collect the money from you, one of the many consequences of credit card late payment.

Features of Credit Card Debt Collections

The credit card collections process is not a pleasant experience. Persistent letters, emails, and phone calls are all features of the debt collections process.

At the beginning, when the credit card company itself is handling the collection process, it may be a bit better. However, once your debt has been sold and/or turned over to a debt collections agency, things often become more intense.

What Is a Collection Lawsuit?

If debt collectors are not successful in using phone calls, letters, or emails, the next step is often a lawsuit. A collection lawsuit is when either the debt owner or collector files in court asking you to pay the debt. If they win, the judge will issue a judgment, which could allow the debt collector to garnish your wages or put a levy on your bank account.

It’s important to note that different states have different rules for how long a debt collector has to file a lawsuit. In most states, if you incurred the debt, the debt collector can legally collect it, and if they have the correct amount, they can keep asking you to pay the debt. However, there may be a statute of limitations on how long they can initiate a collection lawsuit. Check reputable websites or with a lawyer if you’re not sure about the law where you live.

Responding to a Collection Lawsuit: What to Know

If you receive a collection lawsuit, you may be wondering if you should respond. In most cases, it’s a good idea to respond to the collection lawsuit, since that requires the owner of the debt to prove their case.

If they can’t show they own your debt and that you’re obligated to pay it, you may have the debt vacated. Further, you may also have your debt discharged if it’s past your state’s statute of limitations.

Consult with a debt relief lawyer if you’re not sure what to do in your particular circumstances.

What Happens If You Don’t Respond to a Collection Lawsuit?

If you don’t respond to a collection lawsuit, it’s possible that the judge will issue a default judgment against you. A default judgment means that the plaintiff (the debt collector) automatically wins, since the defendant (you) did not respond to the lawsuit. In that case, the debt collector or owner now has the legal right to garnish your wages and/or attempt to go after the money in any of your bank accounts.

How a Debt in Collection Affects Your Credit

Having debts that are in collection will have a negative impact on your credit score. The more recent the date of collection, the more of a negative impact it will have on your credit score.

In most cases, a debt that is in collection will stay on your credit report for seven years (though note this differs from how long credit card debt can be collected).

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Guide to Dealing With Credit Card Debt in Collection

If you have a debt that’s already in collection, you may want to consult a lawyer that specializes in debt relief. While it may seem daunting to hire and pay for a lawyer, they may be able to help you settle the debt for a fraction of the original amount or even completely discharge the debt.

Taking Charge of Your Finances

If you’re worrying about credit card debt collections, you may feel like your finances have spun out of your control. Here are some tips to take charge once again:

•   Only spend what you can afford to pay off: One of the best tips for using a credit card responsibly is to avoid making purchases that you won’t be able to pay off each month. This will stop your spending from spiraling into debt.

•   Always try to pay off your credit card in full: When you pay your full credit card statement amount each month, you stay out of debt and are more likely to have a good or excellent credit score. Although credit card debt can be hard to pay off, doing so can have a positive impact on your credit score.

•   Address any debt head on: If you find yourself in the position of having credit card debt, the best thing to do is to openly acknowledge your situation and make a plan to pay off your credit card bill. Start a budget, cut expenses if needed, and use any monthly surplus amount to pay down your debt. It’s also smart to stop spending on your credit card until you’ve reduced or eliminated any outstanding balance.

The Takeaway

If you don’t pay the balance on your credit card, your credit card issuer may begin the credit card debt collection process. This may mean that they may contact you directly, hire a third-party collection company, or even sell your debt to another company. Having a debt in collections will have a negative effect on your credit score and is something to avoid if possible.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

What happens when credit card debt goes to collections?

If you have an outstanding credit card balance that goes to collections, the credit card company likely will ask you to make at least the minimum payment on the debt. This may continue for the first few months, after which point they’ll likely hire a third-party debt collector. The debt collector will then start trying to collect the debt from you, which may include filing a lawsuit against you.

Can a debt collector force me to pay?

A debt collector company cannot directly force you to pay a debt. However, depending on the statute of limitations in the state you live in and how long ago the debt was incurred, they may be able to sue you in court. If they win, the court may issue a judgment, which would allow them to collect by garnishing your wages and/or levying your bank account.

How long can credit card debt be collected?

In most states, as long as it’s a valid debt, there is no statute of limitations for how long a debtor can ask for repayment. However, many states do limit how long legal action can be taken to collect the debt. Additionally, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act details what a debt collector can and cannot do while attempting to collect a debt.

Do debt collections affect your credit score?

If you have a debt in collection, especially one that has recently gone into collections, it’s likely to have a severe impact on your score. This is because payment history is one of the factors used in the calculation of your credit score, and credit card debt in collections is considered significantly past due.


Photo credit: iStock/courtneyk

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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10 Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

10-Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

Most people in the market for a new dwelling will buy an existing home that more or less fits their needs. But new homes don’t come with the problems that old homes might, from lead paint to a kitchen crying out for remodeling. And building a house may seem attractive because you can construct it to fit your specifications, from the number of bathrooms to building an outdoor kitchen.

If you’re ready to build your own house, here are the steps to take.

10 Steps to Building Your Own Home

Condo. Townhouse. Single-family home. Modular or manufactured home. Cabin or even houseboat. A house hunter has all of those types of homes to choose from. If you’re building a home, you’ll have a lot of choices to make as well, starting with where your home will be located. Here are the steps to building your own home:

1. Find a Location

The first thing you’ll need to do is find a site that’s zoned for a residential property. Look into local building regulations to see how much of the site you are allowed to build on and how far from property lines the building must be set back. Check ordinances that might limit size or height. Is there a homeowners association (HOA)? Scour the rules.

It’s generally suggested that you not spend more than 20% of your total budget on the building site. When you purchase the land, you will acquire a property deed, which will also act as the house deed.

2. Obtain Permits

Before a shovelful of earth is turned, the local building department must OK the plans and provide permits for the whole shebang: grading, zoning, construction, electrical work, plumbing, and more. When the permits are in hand, construction can start.

On a related note, at various points during construction, the home will need to be inspected for code compliance. If you are using a loan for new construction, your lender may also send an inspector to keep track of construction status before releasing payments from a construction loan.

3. Prep the Site and Your Finances

Site Prep

Before you start building, you’ll need to prepare the building site. You’ll want to be sure that soil conditions are stable. You may want to engage a civil engineer to give the site a look. A site surveyor can stake the property boundaries. Then you’ll need to clear brush and debris at least to 25 feet around the planned perimeter of the house.

Size and Cost

The cost of building a house averaged $313,884 in 2022, according to HomeAdvisor, the directory of service pros, but a typical range is from around $137,000 to $582,000. Obviously location, materials, and level of detail affect the bottom line.

But size is the biggie. The larger the build, the more labor and material costs you should expect. The average new home in the country has about 2,200 square feet at $150 per square foot, HomeAdvisor notes.

After the peak of the pandemic, there were months-long delays to receive materials, from appliances to garage doors, and construction costs increased. Oil prices significantly increased transportation expenses. Rising inflation left its mark, but prices leveled off in 2023. All of which is to say, cost numbers are a moving target.

Finance Options

When you build a home, you may need a loan that covers the purchase of land, buying materials, and hiring labor. In this case, you may want to look into a construction loan. Unlike mortgage loans, construction loans are not secured by an existing home, so approval might be tricky and take a bit longer.

The money is paid to your builder in installments. You’ll often only pay interest on the portion of the loan that has been withdrawn. After the typical 12 to 18 months of a construction-only loan, the usual route is to take out a mortgage and pay off the construction loan.

Other financing options are a home equity loan, if you already own a home.

A personal loan of up to $100,000 can pay for part of the construction (or maybe all, for a modest build).

If you’re buying the land, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) one-time close loans cover the lot purchase, construction, and permanent mortgage. But the loans can be hard to find and are tougher to qualify for than traditional FHA loans.

Check out these additional resources for homeowners.

Choosing Materials

Only an experienced and highly organized person may want to act as their own general contractor for a new house build. Most people will put the job in a contractor’s hands, and add 20% to 30% for the cost of materials and labor.

General contractors already have priced and sourced many of the materials when making a bid. They usually have relationships with wholesale distributors, lumberyards, and retailers.

That said, you may have some skills that you could apply to cut costs. For example, you could look into how much it costs to paint a house and determine if painting the home’s interior could help you save.

Building a Work Team

If you choose to fly solo, you’ll be on the hook for finding subcontractors yourself.

A general contractor will hire all of the team members needed to complete the project and charge 20% to 30% of the overall cost of the home. However, they also typically have regular relationships with subcontractors, who may charge them less than they would a person who hires them on a one-off basis.

As a result, you may not end up saving much or any money by finding subcontractors yourself.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


4. Pour the Foundation

Once the building site is cleared, construction can begin, starting with the foundation. Some houses are built on level slabs of concrete that are poured on the ground, leaving space in which to run utilities, like plumbing and electrical.

A home with a full basement requires that a hole is dug and that footings and foundation walls are formed and poured. The concrete will need time to cure, and no construction will take place until it has set properly.

5. Set Up Plumbing

Once the concrete has set, crews install drains, water taps, the sewer system, and any plumbing going into the first-floor slab or basement floor, and then backfill dirt into the gap around the foundation wall.

6. Assemble the Frame, Walls, and Roof

With the foundation complete, framing carpenters will build out the shell of the house, including floors, walls, and the roof. Windows and exterior doors are installed, and the house is wrapped in a plastic sheathing that protects the interior from outside moisture while allowing water vapor from inside the home to escape.

7. Install Insulation, Complete Electric and Plumbing Installs

Now plumbers can install water supply lines and pipes to carry water through the floors and walls. Bathtubs and showers may be added at this time.

Electricians will wire the house for outlets, light fixtures, and major appliances. Ductwork and HVAC systems can be installed.

8. Hang Drywall and Install Interior Fixtures and Trim

With plumbing and electrical complete, the house can be insulated and drywall can be hung. A primary coat of paint goes on, and the house will start to look relatively finished.

Light fixtures and outlets can be installed, as can bathroom and kitchen fixtures, like sinks and toilets. Interior doors, baseboards, door casings, windowsills, cabinets, built-ins, and decorative trim go in. The final coat of paint is applied.

9. Install Exterior Fixtures

Crews begin exterior finishes like brick, stone, stucco or siding. Some builders pour the driveway when the foundation is completed, but many opt to do so toward home completion, along with walkways and patios.

10. Install the Flooring

Wood, ceramic tile, or vinyl floors and/or carpet can be installed at this point.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer Guide

Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a New House?

There are so many variables that it’s hard to say.

The median sales price for new construction in April 2024 was $433,500, according to FRED, or Federal Reserve Economic Data. Can you beat that price with a DIY build? Maybe, if you act as the general contractor and choose cheaper materials.

Keep in mind that HomeAdvisor’s average of $313,884 to build a house does not include the land.

Ultimately, the price of your dream home hinges on location, the cost of labor and materials, and your taste.

3 Home Loan Tips

1.   Since lenders will do what’s called a hard pull on an applicant’s credit, and too many hard pulls in a short period can affect your application, it’s a good idea to know what interest rate a lender will offer you before applying for a personal loan. Viewing your rate with SoFi involves only a soft pull on your credit — and takes one minute.

2.   Before agreeing to take out a personal loan from a lender, you should know if there are origination, prepayment, or other kinds of fees.

3.   Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

The Takeaway

Building your own home will allow you maximum flexibility in terms of your choices of everything from floorplan to finishes. But it is a complex process and you’ll want to take it step by step, with careful consideration of your budget and how you plan to finance what you build.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

https://www.sofi.com/home-loans/mortgage/“>

FAQ

How long can you expect to live in a self-built home?

If a home is well built and maintained properly, you can expect it to last a lifetime.

How long will it take to build a home?

The average time it takes to build a home from start to finish is 9.4 months for a contractor build and 12 for an owner build, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Is it dangerous to build a home yourself?

If the question means completely DIY — clearing a lot, pouring a foundation, framing, installing electrical, and so on — the answer is “it sure could be.”

Are there safe financing options for self-build projects?

DIY builders and remodelers may use a construction loan, personal loan, home equity loan, or FHA one-time close loan. If you do use a construction-only loan, shop for a mortgage that makes sense once you stand there admiring the finished product.


Photo credit: iStock/Giselleflissak

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

²To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945).

All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state.

You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria.

SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY.

In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.

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Available Credit vs Credit Limit: What Are the Key Differences?

Available Credit vs Credit Limit: What Are the Key Differences?

Your available credit and the total credit limit on a particular credit card are both tied to the potential amount that you can spend. Your credit limit is the total amount of credit that the card issuer is willing to lend you. On the other hand, your available credit is the potential amount you can spend right now.

Unlike your credit limit, your available credit takes into consideration your outstanding balance and any pending charges. So, for example, if your total credit limit is $10,000, and you have an outstanding balance of $2,000, then your available credit is $8,000.

What Is Available Credit?

Your available credit on a credit card is the total amount that you can spend on your credit card. It is usually calculated as the total credit limit minus any outstanding balance or pending charges. If you attempt a transaction that is larger than your available credit, the credit card company will typically decline the transaction.

What Is a Credit Limit?

The way most credit cards work is that the credit card company issues you a maximum amount that they are willing to lend you. This is called your credit limit. It is usually determined by your financial information, such as your credit score, income, and other items on your credit history.

Why Is Available Credit Important?

Your available credit is one of the most important things about your credit card. The amount of available credit you have is the total amount of money that you can spend on your credit card. If you try to make a purchase that’s more than your total available credit, your credit card company will usually decline your transaction.

Differences Between Credit Limit and Available Credit

The main difference between credit limit and available credit is one of a theoretical limit vs. a limit in practice.

Your credit limit is the theoretical limit that represents how much the credit card company is willing to lend you. If you’ve used a portion of your credit limit, then that amount is subtracted from your total credit limit and becomes your available credit. This is the maximum amount that you can spend right now on your credit card.

In other words, your credit limit will generally remain the same, whereas your available credit will vary based on your spending. When you haven’t spent any money using your credit card, meaning your balance is $0, your credit limit and available credit are the same.

What Happens If You Go Over Your Available Credit?

If you have a credit card balance or outstanding pending charges on your credit card, those amounts are subtracted from the total credit limit that you have on that card. This marks your current available credit, and it’s the maximum amount that you can charge on your credit card at the current point in time.

If you try to make a charge for more than your available credit, it’s likely that your credit card company will decline the charge. With some credit card companies or specific credit cards, it’s possible that the credit card company will allow a charge above your available credit, but they may charge interest and/or additional fees. Check with your credit card company for the specific rules and terms for your particular card.

What Happens If You Go Over Your Credit Limit?

If you continue to spend all of your available credit until you’ve reached your total credit limit, you may not be able to continue to use your credit card. You’ll first need to make payments to lower your total balance and raise your available credit.

In some cases, if you continue to keep your outstanding balance near your total credit limit, the credit card company may choose to close your credit card account. If this doesn’t happen, your card issuer may also increase your interest rate, lower your credit limit, or even raise the minimum payment requested.

Going over your credit limit can also have serious implications for your credit score. This is because credit utilization — how much of your available credit you’re currently using — is a major factor used to determine your score. It’s recommended to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% to maintain a healthy score; if you’ve reached your credit limit, your utilization will be at 100%.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How to Increase Your Available Credit

The best way to increase the available credit on your credit card is to spend less on your card and make additional payments toward your total outstanding balance. Every dollar that you pay toward your outstanding balance will increase your available credit.

Ideally, you’d get to a situation where you’d pay off your statement balance in full, each and every month. In that scenario, your available credit and your total credit limit would be equal.

How to Increase Your Credit Limit

You have a few options for increasing your credit limit. Some credit card companies will regularly review the accounts of their cardmembers, and proactively increase their credit limits.

You also have the option to contact your card issuer directly and ask them to increase your credit limit. Keep in mind that most issuers are more likely to increase your credit limit if you’re already using your credit card responsibly.

If you’re not having any luck increasing the credit limit on your existing credit card, another option is to open a new credit card. This could substantially increase your available credit if you’re approved — especially if the new card’s limit is at or above the average credit card limit.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

Your total credit limit and available credit are two terms that refer to the amount of money that you can spend on your credit card. However, there is a difference between credit limit and available credit. Your credit limit usually refers to the maximum amount that your card’s issuer is willing to lend you. Meanwhile, your available credit is the maximum credit limit, minus any outstanding balance or pending charges on the card.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Why is my available credit less than my credit limit?

Your available credit will often be less than your credit limit based on any outstanding balance or pending charges that you have on your credit card. If you have a total credit limit of $7,500 on a particular card, and an outstanding balance of $1,000, then your available credit is $6,500. The available credit amount is the maximum amount that you can charge on your credit card at the current moment.

Why is my available credit higher than my credit limit?

It’s rare that your available credit will be higher than your total credit limit. Instead, it’s much more common for your available credit to be less than (or equal to) your total credit limit. One scenario where your available credit may be higher is if you have a credit on your account, such as from a refunded transaction.

How is my credit limit determined?

Credit card issuers typically determine your total credit limit based on the financial information that you provide when you apply for the card. This includes your employment information, salary, and overall creditworthiness. If your financial situation has materially changed since you first applied or if you have a history of responsibly using your card, you may be able to contact your issuer and have your credit limit increased.

What is a good amount of available credit?

Currently the average credit card limit was just over $30,000, though credit limits vary widely by card issuer, credit card, and individual. A good amount of available credit is one that allows you to make all of the transactions that you need to make each month, with a little bit of buffer room, and without your utilization going above 30% of your limit. You should aim to put yourself into a financial position where you can pay off each of your credit card statements in full, each and every month.


Photo credit: iStock/Georgii Boronin

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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